|The Origin of Chocolate
The Mayans were the first people to cultivate cocoa in an organized way. The cocoa tree, considered sacred, was doubly precious: its beans were used as a form of currency as well as the ritual ingredient for a tonic and nutritious beverage. The Toltecs, followed by the Aztecs, established a cocoa culture, helping it to become widespread throughout Central America.
|The Spaniards Discover Chocolate
When Christopher Columbus landed on the island of Guanaja in 1502, he was almost certainly the first European to ever taste the chocolate, “elixir of the gods”.
From 1521 onwards, chocolate became widely established throughout Spanish America, all the way from Cuba to Venezuela.
Although known in Spain from 1527, chocolate was mainly only popular in convents and monasteries where the Vatican permitted its usage during long fasting periods.
It became very quickly, however, extensively appreciated for its nourishing qualities. The recipes became increasingly refined over time, meaning that chocolate could be enjoyed in an ever wider variety of tastes and textures.
|Chocolate Invades Europe
In France and throughout Europe, chocolate was now completely in vogue. This new craze sparked intense opinions, from idolization to demonization.
The Marquise de Sevigne, for example, praised its nutritional, digestive and fortifying qualities, before vilifying it for being the cause of her palpitations and abnormal values.
But chocolate really owed its success to its alleged aphrodisiac power, with it being rumored that you could die of pure pleasure. As a result, chocolate drinkers were soon accused of being completely debauched.
|The Chocolate Revolution
By the end of the 17th century, chocolate makers had proliferated in France. French pastry chefs had acquired the art of making chocolate of exceptional quality while France’s trading links with Martinique, Guadeloupe, Guyana and St Domingue ensured direct cocoa supplies.
In the 19th century, Europe discovered chocolate as-never-before, including cocoa powder from Holland and smooth milk chocolate from Switzerland.
Between the 19th and 20th centuries, industrialization, the lowering of taxes and the development of transport opened the doors to a chocolate revolution.
|Quality Chocolate Galore!
The 20th century saw an explosion of gourmet chocolate treats, from bite-sized filled delicacies, chocolate bars, chocolate bonbons, ganaches, to chocolate squares to have with coffee.
Many of the world’s leading chocolate companies were created during this period, including Valrhona. In 1922, Albéric Guironnet, a pastry chef from the Rhone Valley, founded the Vivarais Chocolate Factory, a company that would go on to become the world renowned brand of Valrhona that we know today.
Albéric Guironnet’s guiding principle was to “use the best to make the best,” and almost 100 years after he founded the company, this value still remains at the heart of all Valrhona does.